Dinner in the Morning

Lemony Roast Chicken and Beans

I mentioned my dinner-in-the-morning strategy last spring when I asked you to marinate drumsticks in buttermilk before heading off for the day. (Meanwhile, if Abby had her druthers, she would subsist on that buttermilk “fried” chicken and that buttermilk “fried” chicken alone for the rest of her life.) The strange science behind the idea is this: If you take one or two minutes in the morning to chop an onion or wash some salad greens in preparation for your meal that night, it will inexplicably end up saving you 20 minutes of prep time on the other end of the day.

If you think a two-minute slice or dice is something your morning routine can handle, then this recipe, a Lemony Roast Chicken that I first tested at Real Simple eight hundred years ago, is a good place to inaugurate the strategy. You can chop the potatoes, trim the beans, slice the lemons, even mix up the dressing in the morning and then, when you walk in the door after work (or after the vet emergency room visit…long story) then you will be a mix and a toss and a 45-minute roast away from dinner. How about that? The perfect amount of time to assist with homework and enjoy a glass of wine.

Lemony-Chicken with Potatoes and Beans
Adapted from Real Simple

Note: The green text indicates tasks that are recommended getting out of the way in the morning. You can do one of them, two of them, all of them. Up to you and your specific level of AM chaos.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat a large baking dish with olive oil or cooking spray.

Slice 2 lemons as shown and arrange in a single layer in the bottom of the dish as shown. In a large bowl, combine 4 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon juice from 1 lemon, 2 minced garlic cloves, salt, and pepper; wash and trim two handfuls of green beans and toss to coat. Using tongs, remove the green beans and arrange them on top of the lemon slices. Chop 10 red potatoes into 1-inch chunks [to prevent browning, cover potatoes with water in a bowl if you do this in the morning] add to the olive-oil mixture, and toss to coat.

Arrange the potatoes on top of the beans. Toss four boneless chicken thighs in olive-oil mixture and coat thoroughly. Place the chicken in the dish. Pour any of the remaining olive-oil mixture over the chicken.

Roast for 45 minutes.

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Ish, I never ate “breakfast” when I was in high school (the last time I regularly ate in the morning). My go-to breakfast food was a tuna fish sandwich!


I made this for dinner this evening and I wanted to love it but…..I thought the sliced lemons gave everything an unpleasant bitter edge.
did I do something wrong?? sliced 2 lemons and lined the bottom of the pan, used broccoli instead of green beans, bone in, skin on thighs but otherwise I followed the recipe..



Jean – I’m glad you mentioned that. The cooked-down lemons are not for everyone (I happen to love them, as does my 8-yr-old) but usually just omitting them from a serving makes it less sharp. If you want it a little more mild, maybe try reducing number of slices to just three or four?

Jan @ Family Bites

I’m so with you on this one. I make lunches in the evening after dinner, and I start dinner in the morning after breakfast. I’ve even been known to cook dinner in the slow-cooker overnight while I sleep. Whatever makes it easier, right?


This is a great idea, and I think if I did this while my little one was having breakfast it would make my evening a million times smoother.

On a funny note, I ripped this recipe out of real simple many moons ago and it has become a summertime staple for us. The pg with the recipe is almost transparent from all the greasy fingers that have picked it up to refer back to the directions. However, I think the original recipe calls for chicken breasts. Next time I will try with the thighs because I bet it will be more moist and flavorful. Thanks for improving on something so wonderful!


Delicious! Thanks for the recipe. I used bone in chicken breast and they were juicy & delicious. Even my husband who rarely comments on dinner said it was ‘tasty”!


I know I’m late to the party, but I started reading this website a few weeks ago when I think Gretchen Rubin linked to it – and it is life changing! I made this recipe yesterday on a freezing, rainy, dispiriting day – dropped the chicken in the buttermilk before I left for work, walked in the door at 6:30 pm and preheated the oven just like you said – and it was the best part of the day. Everyone loved it and I didn’t feel stressed and I didn’t make a mess in the kitchen at 7 pm. Thank you! (Have already ordered Time for Dinner and can’t wait to get the new book.)


Do you cook this covered with foil or uncovered? Typically “roast” means uncovered, but I wasn’t sure.


I realize I’m way late to this game, but… is there any reason I couldn’t do this, say, the night before instead of in the morning? I know myself, and I tend to leave myself the bare minimum amount of time to get out the door in the morning, and I’m much more likely to take my time in the evening.